My Life as an Experiment: One Man's Humble Quest to Improve Himself by Living as a Woman, Becoming George Washington, Telling No Lies, and Other Radical Tests

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Overview

One man. Ten extraordinary quests.

Bestselling author and human guinea pig A. J. Jacobs puts his life to the test and reports on the surprising and entertaining results. He goes undercover as a woman, lives by George Washington's moral code, and impersonates a movie star. He practices "radical honesty," brushes his teeth with the world's most rational toothpaste, and outsources every part of his life to India--including reading bedtime stories ...

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My Life as an Experiment

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Overview

One man. Ten extraordinary quests.

Bestselling author and human guinea pig A. J. Jacobs puts his life to the test and reports on the surprising and entertaining results. He goes undercover as a woman, lives by George Washington's moral code, and impersonates a movie star. He practices "radical honesty," brushes his teeth with the world's most rational toothpaste, and outsources every part of his life to India--including reading bedtime stories to his kids.

And in a new adventure, Jacobs undergoes scientific testing to determine how he can put his wife through these and other life-altering experiments--one of which involves public nudity.

Filled with humor and wisdom, My Life as an Experiment will immerse you in eye-opening situations and change the way you think about the big issues of our time--from love and work to national politics and breakfast cereal.

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Editorial Reviews

From Barnes & Noble
You remember A. J. Jacobs. For his first book, he read the Encyclopedia Britannica from A to Zz. For his second book, A Year of Living Biblically, he followed every Gospel commandment and Old Testament rule. In The Guinea Pig Diaries, he goes all the way, committing himself to experiments that would probably curl the hair of Sacha Baron Cohen. In one full-body immersion, he goes undercover as a beautiful woman. In another, he outsources everything in his life, from answering his personal letters and emails to arguing with his wife. Other experiments including public nudity, living like George Washington (but remaining clothed), and speaking with complete frankness for two solid months. An education in itself.
Publishers Weekly

Having already read the Encyclopedia Britannica from cover-to-cover (The Know-It-All) and spent a year living by every rule in the Bible (The Year of Living Biblically), Jacobs, a kind of latter-day George Plimpton, tests our patience and our funny bones once again with his smart-aleck, off-the-wall and uproarious experiments in living. No cross-dresser he, Jacobs lives a vicarious life as a beautiful woman, the experiment growing out of his role in persuading his son's nanny, Michelle-a stunning beauty-to participate in an online dating service. He signs her up for the site, creates a profile for her, sifts through her suitors and co-writes her e-mails. Pretending to be Michelle, he learns not only the regret of rejection (having to let some guys down), but he also predictably discovers that there's a lot of deceit, boasting and creepiness in Internet dating. In another experiment, Jacobs outsources everything in his life to a company in India, from his research for articles to a complaint letter to American Airlines. This experiment worked so well that he continues to use this company every few weeks to make car rental reservations or to do research for him. Although a "coda" of reflection follows the tale of each experiment, they provide no clarity or wisdom about his experiences. Everybody plays the fool sometimes, and with this book, Jacobs seems to have made a career out of it. (Sept.)

Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
Kirkus Reviews
Esquire editor at large Jacobs (The Year of Living Biblically, 2007, etc.) continues his unique brand of immersion journalism. The swift-moving collection holds together well, and though the author cultivates the persona of a nebbish, his style is crisp and often laugh-out-loud funny. He examines his love for organizing his days via archaic or eccentric principles, regardless of the confusion inflicted on friends, acquaintances and his long-suffering wife. "I've tried to understand the world by immersing myself in extraordinary circumstances," he writes, and admits the addictive nature of the process, rather than the results. He capably translates these journeys into wry comedy, although he claims that "making life better in the end" is his secondary goal. Some of the participants in his experiments, however, may disagree, such as his son's attractive nanny, who afforded Jacobs the opportunity to live the life of a beautiful woman-for which the author rather intrusively managed her Internet dating. Next, Jacobs discovered he could "outsource" every aspect of his daily life to companies based in India, apparently staffed by youthful overachievers who are pleased to take on the responsibilities of lazy Americans while presumably thinking, "How the hell did these idiots ever become a superpower?" After encountering a psychotherapist who advocates the cultish lifestyle of "Radical Honesty," the author spent a month being compulsively truthful: "I had to do some apologizing post-piece, as you might imagine." He also lived for a month like George Washington, based on the president's surprisingly useful list of 110 "Rules of Civility and Decent Behavior in Company and Conversation," and spent amonth being completely subservient to his wife (which she felt was long overdue). Each chapter-some of which previously appeared in Esquire-is followed by a "Coda," in which Jacobs assesses the experiment and its aftermath. A lightweight but endearing and nimble look at how pursuing absurd extremes can illuminate the more mundane aspects of contemporary existence. Agent: Sloan Harris/ICM
From the Publisher
"[My Life as an Experiment] is as funny and instructive as memoir can get."The Knoxville News-Sentinel

"Immersive journalism' is a popular trope these days and Esquire editor A. J. Jacobs is one of its most entertaining adherents, performing a public service with his quest for knowledge in his latest book, [My Life as an Experiment].... His experiments, alternately Herculean and banal, are emblematic of how difficult it is in this modern age to find enlightenment; 'know thyself' regularly brushes up against the cold, rocky bottom of daily life."LA Weekly

"Jacobs... could be the funniest nonfiction writer this side of Bill Bryson.... The experiments themselves are fascinating and lead to genuinely surprising conclusions... and Jacobs storytelling is lighthearted and frequently laugh-out-loud funny.... There aren't a lot of nonfiction books you want to read over and over, but this is certainly one of them."Booklist (starred review)

"Jacobs continues his unique brand of immersion journalism... [and] his style is crisp and often laugh-out-loud funny.... [An] endearing and nimble look at how pursuing absurd extremes can illuminate the more mundane aspects of contemporary existence."Kirkus Reviews

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781442338128
  • Publisher: Simon & Schuster Audio
  • Publication date: 7/13/2010
  • Format: MP3
  • Edition description: Unabridged
  • Ships to U.S.and APO/FPO addresses only.

Meet the Author

A.J. Jacobs is the author of two New York Times bestsellers: The Know-It-All and The Year of Living Biblically. His most recent work is The Guinea Pig Diaries: My Life as an Experiment--a collection of his articles, both new and previously published. He is the editor at large at Esquire magazine. He has written for The New York Times, The Washington Post, and Entertainment Weekly, and is an occasional correspondent for NPR. He lives in New York City with his wife Julie and their children. You can visit his website at ajjacobs.com.

A.J. Jacobs is the author of two New York Times bestsellers: The Know-It-All and The Year of Living Biblically. His most recent work is The Guinea Pig Diaries: My Life as an Experiment--a collection of his articles, both new and previously published. He is the editor at large at Esquire magazine. He has written for The New York Times, The Washington Post, and Entertainment Weekly, and is an occasional correspondent for NPR. He lives in New York City with his wife Julie and their children. You can visit his website at ajjacobs.com.

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Read an Excerpt

Chapter One My Life as a Beautiful Woman

I've been a beautiful woman for fifty days, and no one has compared me to a summer's day. No one has said my lips are like rose blossoms or my throat is as smooth as alabaster.

Men don't have time for that anymore. We live in the age of transparency. Say what you mean and mean what you say. As in:

"You are a very pretty lady."

"I think you are very attractive."

"You look hot."

I've been approached by more than six hundred men, and that's one of the big themes I've discovered in their method: cut to the chase.

The directness has its charms, but like everything else about being a beautiful woman, it has its dark side as well. One suitor tried to seduce me with this line: "I would like to stalk you." Another said, "I am in a committed relationship but am looking for a girl on the side." Are these guys honest? Sure. To the point? Yes. Creepy? As hell.

I'm getting ahead of myself. Let me back up. I stumbled into this experiment as a hot woman. This one wasn't premeditated. As a general rule, I dislike female impersonation. I have too many bad associations of men in skirts--Benny Hill, Uncle Miltie, Idi Amin. But sometimes there are good--or at least excusable--reasons to pose as a female.

The reason in this case is my two-year-old son's nanny, Michelle. She's a stunning woman. Before my wife and I hired her, I thought that hot nannies existed only in vintage Penthouse Forum letters and Aaron Spelling dramas. But Michelle--though I've changed her name for this book--is real. She's twenty-seven and looks like a normal-lipped Angelina Jolie. She's sweet, funny, has a smile straight out of a cruise-line commercial, and wears adorable tank tops.

No one can believe quite how beautiful my nanny is. Among our friends, my wife's sanity is questioned about twice a week. Michelle is so enchanting, my wife has actually given me permission to have an affair with her, ? la Curb Your Enthusiasm. Of course, she made the offer only because she knew there was no chance Michelle would ever be interested. Michelle is too sweet, too Catholic, too loyal, too young. It's like giving me permission to become a linebacker for the Dolphins.

In any case, Michelle remains bafflingly single. So my wife and I decided to help her find a boyfriend. How about Internet dating? we suggested. Michelle balked. She's shy. She's not a big fan of e-mail. Her Internet's down. And aren't all the guys on those sites the kind that have a drawerful of ball gags?

We told her that's an outdated stereotype. We'd help her out. Or I would, since my job is editing and writing. I'd sign her up for a dating site, create a profile, sift through her suitors, and cowrite her e-mails. I'd be her online bouncer, bodyguard, censor, and Cyrano. All she'd have to do is give me some input and allow a few guys to buy her lattes.

She agreed. And even started to like the idea. She wrote her own introductory essay. ("I want someone who will make me laugh at the littlest thing.") We clicked her preferences (fish and dogs are the best pets) and uploaded seven smiley, PG-rated photos with nothing more risqu - than an exposed shoulder or two.

At 8 P.M. on a Wednesday, a couple of hours after Michelle had gone home, her profile was approved and popped up online. I'd been anxious about this. What if it went unnoticed for weeks, gathering dust in an obscure corner of the Internet?

No need to worry. Her profile was viewed within the first three minutes. Then...

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Table of Contents

Introduction xi

Chapter 1 The Unitasker 1

Chapter 2 My Outsourced Life 33

Chapter 3 I Think You're Fat 53

Chapter 4 240 Minutes of Fame 73

Chapter 5 The Rationality Project 89

Chapter 6 The Truth About Nakedness 117

Chapter 7 What Would George Washington Do? 129

Chapter 8 My Life as a Beautiful Woman 159

Chapter 9 Whipped 179

Chapter 10 Do I Love My Wife? 209

Author's Note 221

Appendix A 223

Appendix B 231

Notes 237

Bibliography 245

Acknowledgments 249

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Customer Reviews

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( 44 )
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See All Sort by: Showing 1 – 20 of 44 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted April 21, 2013

    Not as well done as his other work

    I have read Jacobs' other work anf have really enjoyed his interesting and at the same time hilarious style. His commentary on life is insightful. However, this book had significantly less flow. It felt like a hurried commentary. It's almost as if he needed something to satisfy the publisher between books. I am unimpressed. I do, however, maintian hope that his better thought out books continue to entertain.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted September 27, 2012

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  • Posted July 21, 2011

    A J Jacobs RULES!

    Let's get something straight: A J Jacobs did not pay me to write this review. Nobody can pay me enough to make me like a book. I read with delight both of Jacob's previews books, and I squealed with joy when I found this in the Nook store. It was an instant purchase. Jacobs walks us through a series of experiments that are funny, mindbending, a little poignant sometimes and very enlightening. His charm and wit are totally intact, plus you get the added treat of reading things from his wife Julie's point of view. Pick it up! You will not be able to put this book down until you've read the final page.

    0 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted July 14, 2011

    more from this reviewer

    Mostly Entertaining Collection of Short Experiments

    A.J. Jacobs returns to his forte - immersion journalism - by changing the way he lives his life. However, rather than conduct a year-long experiment -- as he did in "The Know-It-All" and "The Year of Living Biblically" -- the experiments in this book each last for about a month at a time.

    The presentation of the material is greatly helped by this shorter time-span. In both of his previous efforts, I felt that, in the last few months, he lost his momentum or his motivation, which translated into a dry, rushed narrative at the end, seemingly to "get it over with." Not so, here. Each month serving as a different experiment, each chapter has an introduction to the topic, several pages on his experiences, and his reflections at the end of the month. Simple format, entertaining to read.

    Two of the experiments really stand out as laugh-out-loud funny. First, the month during which he outsourced the majority of his life to India, inadvertently creating an industry in the process. Second, the month living by George Washington's rules of etiquette; though this was not so much because of his experiences, but rather because of the characters he encounters in his research.

    The book is short, and the format makes it easy to pick up, read a chapter, then come back later for another chapter. All in all I'd recommend it to anyone looking for a good chuckle.

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